"The films were made over the course of a year and, looking back, I'm really proud of them." Neil 'Twink' Tinning, Bipolar UK patron, is talking about 'Last Chance Saloon', the series of 11 short films he has produced in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust for their online magazine Mosaic.

Twink, photographer, musician and patron of Bipolar UK

The series follows Twink, a photographer and musician, on a journey to understand metal illness, while simultaneously chronicling his musical progress towards recording an album with his band, The Tinstones, and performing live for the first time.

Twink is not a novice when it comes to film-making. He was featured in the BBC1 documentary 'Surviving Suicide', which won a MIND Media Award and, more recently, he made the film 'Bipolar Blues' also with Wellcome Trust filmmaker Barry J. Gibb.

'I spent many years of my life behind the camera and more recently I've done enough media work to get relatively comfortable in front it it, which was just as well', says Twink, who lives in the North East.

In 'Last Chance Saloon', Barry has captured Twink's conversations with a number of leading authorities in neuroscience and mental health research, including two academics long associated with Bipolar UK, Professors Nick Craddock and Ian Jones. (I even put in an appearance talking about postpartum psychosis in Part 5.)

At times it is painful viewing, particularly when Twink uses a video diary to record times when he is in the grip of a depression. But the juxtaposition of learning about mental illness with the ordinary progress of Twink's life - practicing his banjo or joking around with Nick Craddock down on his farm - helps to keep the series balanced.

'It was tough at times, but feeling suicidal is part of life for me so I thought it was right to show these times I was really down. I suppose making the films and the stress of worrying about doing the gig at the end were a lot of pressure but it was enjoyable too: I wouldn't have changed it for the world.'

Twink not only discusses his own bipolar disorder with admirable candour, but he also learns more about a range of other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and postpartum psychosis.

I asked Twink what he had got out of the year-long enterprise.

'Making the films has been like a process of discovery; like your topid of postpartum psychosis. I didn't know aspects of it were so similar to bipolar and even schizophrenia. It's been a big education for me.'

'I hope we have treated each diagnosis with the respect it deserves. I admit I was uneducated about PTSD and ADHD for example, but there's a certain amount of overlap between all varieties of mental illness, and it's important to try to do something about the dreadful stigma that exists for everybody.'

In his interviews with experts such as Professor John Williams and Michael Donovan, Twink is particularly struck by how little we know about the way the brain works.

'We don't know enough. That's been a bit of a shock. We don't know enough about the brain. We don't know enough in research terms about bipolar. That's something that has definitely come out of the filming we'd done.

'That's motivated me to think about how wecan develop that, how can we get extra funding for this vital research? Because bipolar research saves lives.'

Twink has more hopes and ambitions for 'Last Chance Saloon'. It's due to get a television airing on the Community Channel this summer, and it's being entered into a number of competitions and film festivals. As Twink says, the more exposure it gets, the more it can do to tackle stigma. Meanwhile, he's concentrating on perfecting his banjo technique and planning the next gig...

View the whole series on the NCMH website

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